Most years, when Easter comes around (on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere spring equinox), I make Hot Atheist Buns, because although I am not a Christian, I do like the food.
I’ve been using a recipe from a Melbourne blogger, but this year, the blog has disappeared. A friend who uses the same recipe from the same blog contacted me to see if I happened to have a copy of the recipe. And I do! Because even though teh interweb is a wondrous beast, sometimes, inexplicably, it breaks, and then paper is a jolly good backup. Also, my paper copy has my notes on it, with the changes I have made in the recipe so that it works better for my tastes.
So herewith my version of the recipe for Hot
Cross Atheist Buns.
Mix 1 tablespoon active dry yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 and 1/2 cups of lukewarm milk. Set aside for a few minutes, until the mixture starts to foam.
Sift 4 and 1/2 cups of plain flour and some spices. The original recipe recommends 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of mixed spice, and 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon, but I prefer to use a mix of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice, with maybe a little mace if I happen to have some. I tend to go lighter on the ginger, and heavier on nutmeg and cinnamon, because the younger atheists in this household aren’t fond of ginger. I use about 4 teaspoons of spices altogether.
Add 1/4 cup of white sugar and 1/4 cup of brown sugar and mix through the flour. The original recipe suggests 1/2 cup of caster sugar, but I like to substitute some brown sugar, so that the buns have a richer colour. I have tried using all brown sugar, but that made the buns a bit too sickly sweet for my taste.
Melt 50gm butter, and beat one egg. Add to the milk and yeast mix, and then add all the liquids to the flour mix. Use a knife to mix the wet and dry ingredients together until a sticky dough forms.
Knead the dough on a well floured surface for about 8 minutes, until it is elastic. Then knead in 1/4 cup mixed glace peel, and 2 cups of mixed dried fruit. I use a combination of sultanas, raisins and currants, in roughly equal proportions.
Put the fruity dough into a large oiled bowl, cover it with a tea towel, and leave it to stand in a warm place for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
At this stage, you should prepare your baking tin. The recipe recommends baking the buns in a 23cm square tin, but I tend to make free-form buns. Either is fine. If you use a square tin, grease it, and then line it with baking paper. If you are making free standing buns, then line a sponge roll tray with baking paper.
Divide the risen dough into 16 pieces, and roll into balls.
Place the balls evenly in the square tin, or in close formation on the sponge roll tray, so that they will end up touching each other. Set aside to rise again for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. To make crosses, or other symbols, combine 1/4 cup of plain flour, and 2 tablespoons of water to make a paste. Use an icing bag, or a plastic bag with the corner cut off, to pipe crosses, or other symbols, onto the buns. Bake them for 35 minutes until they are well browned and springy to touch.
Start preparing a glaze for the buns about 5 minutes before they come out of the oven. Place 1/4 cup of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then add 1 teaspoon powdered of gelatine, dissolved in 1 extra tablespoon of water. Cook for one minute.
Take the buns out of the oven, and brush the warm glaze over them while they are hot.
Sometimes I don’t bother with the glaze, because it’s very sticky. I also tend to cut down on the sugar in the dough, because I prefer slightly less sweet buns. And as I do with my Christmas cake, I often add a heaped teaspoon of powdered coffee, dissolved in a tiny bit of water, to round out the flavour and improve the colour.
Eat with lashings of butter.